MIMO for the TV

By Eric Griffith

May 30, 2006

Airgo's wireless chipset will power set top boxes under the name MIMO Media.

Wireless in living rooms is nothing new, but bringing it to the set top boxes (STBs) that power a lot of the programming you receive is a process that has only just begun. Because it takes a lot of throughput power to deliver digital video, voice and music, Airgo Networks thinks its 3rd Generation chipset is just the ticket, so it has announced a multimedia-targeted version of its silicon, called MIMO Media, for just that purpose.

"This provides a very powerful and inexpensive way for people to take advantage of wireless in set top boxes," says Beau Beck, Airgo's Vice President of Business Development.

Right out of the gate, Airgo has partners to announce, the big one being STMicroelectronics . It holds, according to Beck, anywhere from 65 to 75 percent of the STB chipset market. "When a reference design comes from STMicro, everyone in the world develops on it," he says. "We provide the ability to plug this wireless technology in and go."

The first actual STB with the MIMO Media chips will be the V2O Wireless Home Media Network from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Caton Overseas of China, which also uses STMicro's chips for MPEG decoding. There will be a couple of devices in V2O, including a central server as well as client STBs for other rooms in the house. The first version will support satellite TV; future products will be designed for cable and IPTV. Beck says they may also integrate the chips into products like LCD TVs.

According to Beck, the MIMO Media tech can go beyond STBs and into any kind of home gateway like a DSL or cable modem -- anyone who wants to provide wireless video and voice services. Research firm Infonetics projects STB unit growth to go up 50 percent in the next three years as voice over IP and IP-based TV continue to grow.

Airgo has made its name with high-speed chipsets using the MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) technology that employs multiple antennas. Its chips are used by major vendors like Linksys and Netgear, and the company's growth and success are seen by many as a reason competitors have tried to push through the 802.11n specification, which will turn Airgo's special MIMO into an industry-wide standard. Early "Draft N" products have so far not lived up to the hype, even when compared to Airgo's current 3rd Generation chips. The company has stated it will not go to a 4th generation until 802.11n is in a far more completed state.

"When 11n is ready, transition should be quick and easy," says Beck of moving MIMO Media to new chips in the future. But he says other companies just can't wait. "They spend vast amounts of money for infrastructure to roll out services, but they want the revenue from customers to justify it," he says. "They want to meet that need now. We're saying there's a way with Generation 3— a way to solve that today."



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